The Gran Turismo series has something of a stranglehold on the more serious side of the driving game market. It claims to be The Real Driving Simulator, and a lot of people would agree that it’s The Daddy. But GT5’s unconfirmed and rather mysterious release date has slipped back to December, and it could end up arriving even later than that. So Forza Motorsport 3 might have a bit of a hill to climb if it wants to be The New Daddy, but it could have something of a head-start. Click through the gallery for more…
You are here
Choosing the Nurburgring as the venue for the Forza 3 press launch had given us the inkling that they weren’t exactly going down the Mario Kart route of realism with this game, and this was confirmed when we were treated to a presentation by a Microsoft spokesman.
Anyone doubting Forza’s commitment to realism would have been put in their place with talk of his team’s excitement about the “dynamic tire flex and load sensitivity”. We’re fairly sure that’s a good thing, as is the fact that there are “10 times more polygons per car” which, according to our technical advisers, translates roughly as “the cars all look better than the ones in the last game”. And as there are 400 of said cars… well, that sounds like a lot of polygons.
We were also driven by Potential Female F1 Star (and now Face of Forza) Natacha Gachnang in an Audi R8 V10, on a real piece of tarmac, which was nice. She was fairly insistent about the game’s realism - in fact, she told us how she “got to test the circuit out before the race at Le Mans a few weeks ago, and ended up with a third-place podium finish”. So, there’s proof that the game can turn you into a real-life racing star.
What with us being at the Nordschleife and all, we obviously had to do a bit of actual, real driving ourselves. It would have been rude not to. Although we couldn’t do a Clarkson-with-an-NSX-at-Laguna-Seca-learn-the-track-virtually-and-then-see-how-you-get-on-actually-driving style of test, because the track driving was all over before we got to play the game. Oh well. Maybe we can organise that when Forza 4 comes out.
Suitably excited, we were let loose on the game. The graphics proved to be impressive, on the whole, if not quite photo-realistically breathtaking. The Ferrari 599 trying to overtake alongside, with a rather lush valley as a backdrop, was fairly striking. But then, we probably don’t all play games at home on three plasma TVs, side by side.
The lush valley in question was fictitious, as the game features a mixture of tracks that are designed to look as spectacular as possible, along with real ones. The development team spent three days at the Nurburgring while they were modelling it, and the in-game version did look pretty detailed. Apparently they spent some time driving around the track in golf carts, which sounds like fun. We couldn’t find any golf carts in the game, but we weren’t able to access all 400 cars at this stage, so who knows?
Forza’s colour-coded racing-line guide (there’s probably a catchier official title for it) provides a constant reference of the ideal line and braking points, and if you follow it closely, you’ll hardly crash at all. Although it can start to feel like a strange game of ‘follow the green line’ rather than anything like actual driving, so you can turn all the assists off, and go back to crashing regularly if you want.
Actually, there’s plenty of adjustability thanks to the amount of assists you can choose, or not, so it seems there’ll be a difficulty level most people new to the game can find themselves comfortable with. You can always rewind the race if things get a bit out of hand, but that did feel a bit (or a lot) like cheating.
When things go a bit pear-shaped, the impacts feel nice and solid. But strangely enough, when things are going smoothly, it can feel a bit too, well, smooth. It almost feels like you’re driving some kind of magic carpet, hovering just above the track itself. A real feeling of movement and feedback is difficult for a game to accurately create, admittedly, but we couldn’t help but feel slightly detached.
So it seems that Forza 3 is aiming to be a hardcore simulator - there are ways of making it easy enough for pretty much anyone to cope with, but it feels that it would be too serious to ever invite hooligans to go powersliding around the place in outrageous plumes of smoke. Well, we tried doing that, and just crashed a lot.
Forza wants to be The Definitive Racing Game. We should probably wait until we get a longer go before we decide whether that has been achieved. Rest assured, we’ll always be completely unbiased, even if GT5 does have the Top Gear test track…
Words: James Shovlin